Founder’s Chronicle: Bryan Silverman, Co-Founder of Star Toilet Paper
Briefly tell us about Star Toilet Paper.
We use toilet paper as an innovative medium to help companies reach their target demographic. By printing ads and coupons on toilet paper, we are able to supply large public venues with toilet paper at no cost to them. Advertisers can target consumers based on demographics and gender in a cost-efficient, unique way that will be viewed by an unmatched, captive audience. Through the utilization of mobile capabilities, such as QR codes and SMS, we are able to bridge the gap that exists between captive, print advertising and online tracking.
What (in your experience) has been the most effective marketing tool for introducing a new brand to the market?
Stand out from the crowd! It sounds obvious, but so many types of marketing simply try to disrupt what people are really trying to do. Why not just give people advertisements in ways that they want to interact with them? For example, everyone is looking to read when they are in the bathroom. Ads and coupons in the bathroom provide a great benefit to consumers as they can simply scan the QR code or text the SMS code to receive great deals. And this is all just for going about their normal business! By standing out in this way, rather than using another online ad or billboard, you are changing the way people interact with your brand and distinguishing your company as innovative.
How big of a role does data play in making decisions on launching or changing the focus of a product/service?
Understanding data is essential to changing and improving any product or service. It is simple to see this done in split testing on websites or apps: Is this landing page better than the other version? Does red or green lead to better results? However, with a product like ours, we use data in a different way. For example, we had one roll printed that only had different sized QR codes. We then tested them amongst different people and asked, “Which ones were scanned the most? Was that based on size? Position? Design?” There are a variety of ways that data can be used to continue the push towards a perfect product.
What’s one thing you look for in an agency partner?
The one thing we look for in an agency partner is an agency that shares our vision of being innovative. Obviously an advertisement on toilet paper is a new idea, but we are innovators. Our company is so much more than toilet paper. Also, our mobile capabilities help us stand out in the sea of sameness that is advertising today.
How should agencies apply startup principles to operate effectively and create breakthrough work?
Two of the most important principles we apply are the “5 Why’s” and the “build-measure-learn” feedback loop from “The Lean Startup.” Every Friday, we take time to go through our weeks and figure out what we did well and should do more of. And for everything that did not go as well as planned, we ask “Why?” five times — until we can really get down to the bottom of the issue. The build-measure-feedback loop is utilized for validated learning to ensure we can make the best product possible. Going through every aspect of our product — such as changing the QR codes, the size of ads, the font we use — is essential to learn about our product and what makes it most effective for all parties involved.
What is your advice for retaining young, technologically savvy employees?
Make work fun. When I was in Dallas at Entrepreneur magazine’s Growth Conference to be honored as College Entrepreneur of 2012, Barbara Corcoran was the keynote speaker. One of the things she stressed was how important fun at the workplace was for productivity. By making people come to “work” that is fun, people no longer treat their days simply as 9 to 5 monotonous periods of their life, but rather work becomes somewhere they enjoy going, taking part in activities they love. This sentiment has been echoed by Tony Hsieh of Zappos and David Cummings of Pardot (a fellow Duke grad!).
Many advertising professionals find themselves interested in entrepreneurship. What advice would you give to someone with marketing skills interested in starting a new venture?
Go! Do it! Being in advertising and marketing, you understand how to promote a product/concept, how to make sales and most importantly, how to communicate with others. These three things help make it possible for any advertising professional with marketing skills to get out there and create a new business. Of course it takes time and hard work, but because of the tools marketers already has in their repertoire, they are setting themselves up for success.
What new trend in marketing/digital media are you most excited about and why?
I love how “traditional” brands are taking to creative and guerrilla marketing. It seems as though a lot of companies recognize the fact that “normal” ads just don’t cut it anymore, and they want to brand themselves as innovative. They want to figure out what kind of person their brand would be and epitomize that in an ad to the general public. A recent ad I really enjoyed was the Qualcomm “Best Bus Stop Ever.” I thought it was really cool and creative how Qualcomm got the public to interact with their ads.
Bryan Silverman is the co-founder of Star Toilet Paper and a sophomore majoring in neuroscience at Duke University. He started the company along with his older brother, Jordan, who is a graduate of the University of Michigan. Star Toilet Paper prints ads and coupons on toilet paper and distributes this product to public venues at no cost. Companies who advertise are able to target specific demographics and take advantage of a unique medium coupled with mobile capabilities. Star Toilet Paper has a deep-seated desire to disrupt the status quo and be a game-changer in the marketing industry. Bryan is a native New Yorker and an avid Yankees, Giants and Nets fan and, of course, a Cameron Crazy. He was recently named Entrepreneur magazine’s College Entrepreneur of 2012.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.